Premier League (special Friday edition) Preview: Aston Villa vs. Manchester United

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  • United took four of six points off Villa last season
  • The sides drew 1-1 in the corresponding fixture at Villa Park last season
  • Red Devils possess a 32W-11D-3L record over Villa in the PL era

The opening weekend of the 2015-16 Premier League season was rather kind to Aston Villa and Manchester United, as both sides picked up solid 1-0 victories last Saturday — Villa away to Bournemouth; Man United home to Tottenham Hotspur.

When the second weekend of the season gets underway on Friday (yes, you read that correctly), it’ll be Tim Sherwood’s Villa hosting Louis van Gaal’s United at Villa Park (Watch live, 2:45 pm ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) to kick things off.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

United new boys Memphis Depay, Bastian Scweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin all made their Red Devils debuts but largely failed to impress in their season-opening victory over Tottenham. Meanwhile, it was United’s most unheralded summer signing, Italian right back Matteo Darmian, who stole the plaudits and turned in a man of the match-type performance.

For Villa, life after Christian Benteke has begun. Gabriel Agbonlahor assumed the center forward’s role in the victory over Bournemouth, with summer signings Jordan Ayew and Scott Sinclair (permanent move from Manchester City) flanking him on either side. New club captain and fellow summer signing Micah Richards also made his Villa debut against Bournemouth and played his part in the Villans’ clean sheet (just 10 in 38 games last season).

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Van Gaal said Thursday that goalkeeper David de Gea will not travel with the team and will not feature for United until either the summer transfer window closes on Sept. 1, or a final resolution is reached in his prolonged transfer saga. Sergio Romero will retain his place in goal for at least one more game.

What they’ve said

Sherwood on his side’s youth and potential: “I think they should be excited for the future of this club as these are a group of young men. They’re not old at all. They’re the future of the club and it’s my job to make them very exciting for the immediate future. I think it will be an exciting night for the fans on Friday. They’re coming here very buoyant and it’s up to us to give them a performance that they deserve. That’s what we need to do.”

Van Gaal on his side’s away form: “The key for success this season is improving in away matches. We were one of the best last season at home and I want to create a fortress at Old Trafford. We did that but away we have to improve because last year we were not good.”

Prediction

This is precisely the type of game about which Van Gaal spoke when he lamented United’s away form last season. Their 2014-15 away record: 6W-8D-5L — good for seventh-best in the Premier League — including losses to Leicester City, Swansea and Everton, among others.

Tottenham were incredibly organized defensively last week, which provided Memphis and Wayne Rooney very little time and space to operate. Meanwhile, Villa were hardly tested by Bournemouth, so much is yet to be gleaned from their overhauled defense. Rooney and Memphis combined for a pair of goals and the Red Devils triumph, 2-1.

Watch Live: Everton v. Chelsea

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Everton host Chelsea at Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as Duncan Ferguson takes interim charge of the struggling Toffees.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Everton sit in the relegation zone and after they fired Marco Silva, they badly need a morale-boosting win against a young, talented Chelsea. Frank Lampard‘s side remain in the top four but this will be a tough test as they head to Goodison with Everton scrapping for their lives.

In team news Everton make two changes as Ferguson brings in Walcott and Schneiderlin to the starting lineup in a very attacking side.

Chelsea are unchanged from their midweek win against Aston Villa.

LINEUPS

Top Premier League storylines: Matchweek 16

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Matchweek 16 is upon us.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Here’s what we’ll be keeping an eye on when this weekend’s fixtures kick off Saturday morning…


Manchester derby, perhaps you’ve heard of it 

Manchester City might not take home their third straight PL title, given Liverpool’s 11-point lead after 15 games, but they can still maintain their superiority in Manchester. They’re well on their way to doing so in the table, now they can get (another0 one over the Red Devils on Saturday. At what point do they take over the title of “bigger club?” Asking for a friend…


The start of something big for Chelsea?

Marco Silva is gone with Everton siting 18th in the table. Chelsea’s transfer ban has been cut in half with the Blues sitting fourth. Could this week get any worse? for Everton? Could it get any better for Chelsea?


Desperation time for Arsenal

Unai Emery was fired, which was supposedly to magically fix all of the problems at Arsenal. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? Well, we’re two games into the Freddie Ljungberg (interim) era, and the Gunners have just one point to show for their efforts, and they had to come back from a goal down (twice) against 19th-place Norwich City to get it. Every trip to West Ham is a tricky one for Arsenal, and that’s doubly true given their current form (winless in their last nine games – all competitions).


Does Liverpool’s lead grow? Shrink? Hold steady?

From now until the end of the season, it’s Liverpool’s title to lose. No matter how you look at it, it’s theirs to either win or lose. Therefore, every time out presents a chance to grow their lead, or the risk of seeing it shrink should the drop points and one of the chasing sides to take all three. The math behind it is a bit boring, but if they don’t drop more than 10 points the rest of the season, they’ll win the title. Of course, their margin for error is likely to grow with Leicester and City eventually failing to win. Simply put, Liverpool are sitting comfortably.


Good times roll for Newcastle?

Don’t look now, but Newcastle have won three of their last five games and reached mid-table. Steve Bruce‘s side currently sits 11th after wins over West Ham, Bournemouth and Sheffield United in recent weeks. Welcomeing relegation-threatened Southampton to St. James’ Park could very well spell another three points for the Magpies.

Serie A: Leaders Inter Milan open door for Juve by drawing Roma

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MILAN (AP) Italian league leader Inter Milan was held by Roma to 0-0 on Friday, giving second-placed Juventus a chance to return to the top.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

The home draw left Inter only two points ahead of Juventus, which can regain the lead when it visits third-placed Lazio on Saturday.The result also wasn’t good for Roma, which moved from fifth to fourth place in the standings but remained nine points off the lead after 15 matches.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez had one of the game’s best chances when he got past a defender and entered the area in the 68th minute, but his shot was blocked at the last minute. He called for a handball by the defender but the referee let play continue.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Inter was coming off five straight wins in the league, with its last setback in all competitions last month against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Its last league loss was against Juventus in October, nine matches ago.

Roma was seeking its third straight league win. It had won five of its last six matches since last month.

Inter visits Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

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  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

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The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.